Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Day 3: Midtown Meander

Fisheye view from my apartment, looking one block west to Fifth Avenue and Central Park

Fifth Avenue intersection crossing signage

The Wonderfully Vulgar interior of Trump Tower

Statue of Atlas, Fifth Avenue

Rockefeller Plaza

Rockefeller Plaza, going vertical

One of the beautiful Art Deco buildings on Rockefeller Plaza

Prime Burger diner, post-eggs (sunnyside up), bacon and toast with coffee (was too hungry to take photograph while there was still food on the plate)

Prime Burger, 5 East 51st Street (life-saving Nosh Stop)

St. Patrick's Cathedral interior

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Fifth Avenue

Fifth Avenue Reflections

Mark Charonis and George Skoufalos

Mark, Me and George, kindly taken by random passer-by with Geo's camera

Mark and me

Bit of a late start this morning, awoke with slight hangover from fizz and red wine at Peter and Amy's last night, which was soon dispelled with a cup of tea, but also simply a tad tired, so decided to have an easy morning chilling in the apartment before going out after lunch. Caught up with writing and emails, showered/sprinkled, tested new hairdrier (much better), read guide books, ate low fat granola with raisins (yummy!), drank more tea, photographed view from apartment with fisheye, pottered in general, until finally ready to step out.

Went straight to Fifth Avenue and started walking downtown, soon in the heart of Midtown with attendant busy bustle, taller buildings and TOP shops :) Had to have a look in FAO Schwarz, toy emporium, with the most awesome Sweetie Section I have seen since the days of Bentalls department store in Kingston when I was about seven years old, piles of soft toys (every conceivable animal that you can think of, and then a fair few more besides), a pink Barbie section, huge Lego figures and lots, lots more. Resisted the urge to buy some noxious sweets (it was a toughie though - jelly octopus anyone?) and returned to Fifth Avenue to continue on my way.

Soon came to Trump Tower which was open to the public, this I had to see, entered through revolving doors into an opulently vulgar lobby clad in pinkish marble. Six escalators going up, so went right to the top, pausing to marvel at the cascading water feature which was the height of the cavernous atrium, and was adding the faint yet unmistakable aroma of chlorine to the "ambience." Nice.

Continued on down Fifth, waiting like a Good Girl at the lights at every block and not crossing until given the white walking man as opposed to the red hand, but feeling like a bit of a plank standing there when others blithely crossed when they shouldn't have done. Don't they have snipers on every building at intersections, ready to shoot miscreants straight between the eyes for crossing on the red hand? ;->

Suddenly found myself inside Banana Republic (hot dang, how did that happen?) purchasing a very pretty white silk blouse with ruffle detail on neck, realised had left credit card at apartment and only had limited amount of $ on me (Good Thing or Bad Thing depending on how one looks at it) so reluctantly had to postpone visit to Abercrombie and Fitch until another day (blast! will now have to go back to Fifth Avenue shops, major drag!! suppose can force self to do it if I have to) and continued on down to statue of Atlas shouldering his enormous burden (know how he feels, the Nikon D700 with 24-70 is a Seriously Heavy camera), then the Rockefeller Plaza.

Had a chat with a guy handing out discount vouchers for the Top of the Rock, he told me that there was live music on Wednesdays, so said I would go next week in the hope that the weather would have brightened up again by then (it has been distinctly murky today, a stark contrast to yesterday, but at least it didn't rain), but also didn't have enough money left to do today.

Spotted Duane Reade store (one of my faves from last time) across the Plaza, so dashed over to get chemisty-bits that I couldn't get in Walgreens yesterday, and some Jelly Belly beans (so failed to resist the call of the Noxious Sweeties any longer then) because they are so cheap over here and I do find them delicious!

Took a few more photos around the Plaza, which has many stunning Art Deco buildings with simple and elegant motifs carved onto their facades - really could do with a tilt-shift lens to conteract the distortion encountered when pointing any other lens upwards, but this will have to come later (either when am Rich and Famous Photographer, or safely taken care of by Upper East Side Billionaire [yes, I know I said millionaire yesterday, but why not aim high?] that I casually bump into and he totally falls for my Cute English Ways etc etc), so please excuse converging verticals for now.

Sky was becoming ominously grey by this point, I had no umbrella, and was flagging energy-wise, it being about 3.30 and I had not eaten since breakfast. Was obviously being taken care of though, because as I crossed Fifth by St. Patrick's Cathedral with the vague notion of going into it to have a look, I came across Prime Burger on E.51st Street, and although I only had 9 bucks left, based on the prices in the window figured that I could just about afford some eggs and bacon with coffee to keep me going. On entering I was greeted by a friendly man behind a little booth desk to the left, who directed me in to the fabulously retro interior, with a choice of seats either at the counter or in seating banquettes opposite. Opted to perch on stool, gratefully sat and offloaded camera into bag whilst one of the guys wiped the counter in an efficient manner and proffered me a menu. Told him about the $9 Predicament, said what I really fancied eating, he ran through some options and then checked with Friendly Booth Desk Man that I was within budget - I was, Big Phew! - so with my order placed I settled down happily to read Time Out NYC visitors guide and make some notes in my Moleskine, whilst sipping a blisteringly hot bottomless coffee (the essential American Diner never-ending refill variety) and revelling in the glorious sensation of not having my weight on my feet. Food arrived, sunnyside-up eggs, bacon and toast - wicked - realised just how hungry I was as I started snarfing at a much greater speed than I usually would (anyone who has ever eaten a meal with me will know that I am officially the World's Slowest Eater, so this is quite something) until it was all gone and I felt MUCH better.

Prime Burger has just featured in the newspaper "am New York" (or this may be a section of a newspaper, only have a photocopy of article to go by), and this is what it said: "They've been slinging burger patties at 5 E.51st Street since 1938, when what is now Prime Burger was part of a chain called Hamburg Heaven. The restaurant is across the street from St.Patrick's Cathedral and used to be open 24 hours a day. That led to the quip that once graced the menu "The Gates of Heaven Never Close." Co-owner Michael DiMicelli says the church didn't give its blessing to the line, so the words were removed.

This place isn't just "retro" - it's what all retro-style restaurants strive to be. Prime Burger's modish interior hasn't been touched since 1965.* Co-owners Michael and John DiMicelli cherish the place's idiosyncrasies such as 24 box seats with swing-out trays. For the ultimate experience, tuck into one of those seats and tear into a cheeseburger and side of fries served by waiters like Arthur Ward, who has been at Prime Burger since the 1950's."

* which makes it as old as me, so a fitting place to eat around my birthday :)

Much restored, said goodbye to my friendly and helpful bartend, paid my bill (which almost cleaned me out), and tottered fatly into the street with a satisfied grin on my face. Crossed the road to St. Patrick's to now visit and do it justice; upon entering was greeted by security who wanted to have a look in my bag, I happily complied but was momentarily completely thrown when he asked "how many weapons do you have in there?", until he grinned hugely and said "just kidding!". However, held my own by holding forth enormous camera and retorting "only this one!" - terrible, I know - more friendly joshing ensued, and then I went on to explore properly. No tripod today, so had to up the ISO on the camera exponentially, something I am not keen on doing despite the capabilities of my D700, but shots looked all right so tried not to worry too much.

When I emerged onto the street once more, the light was obviously going and I had to leave the ISO up high, so figured it was time to start heading back to apartment to relax and write this blog, and went east onto Madison so that I could just walk straight up without having to think about where I was going. On one of the intersections fell into step with a couple of guys both smoking stogies, the sweet aroma not at all unpleasant, and we all got chatting (as you do) and walked a few blocks together. Mark and George were cousins, Mark over from Seattle to visit George for his birthday tomorrow, which also happens to be his wedding anniversary. Happy September 17th George! We all stopped to take one another's photos (again, as you do), swapped email addresses, and then I let them go on while I took a few more photos, but the light really was going by then, and I wasn't prepared to sacrifice image quality any more by having to use a high ISO, so just walked on up Madison until I reached my apartment block.

Now enjoying glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, music on, shoes off, comfortably mellow and pleasantly tired, will head off to bed fairly soon in the hope of getting up earlier tomorrow, so until then, signing off in NYC ....

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